When you take on a project like a PhD, or move to a new country, or embark on any kind of adventure, you expect a certain number of surprises, anticipate the unexpected. When you lean into the Spirit and go where the Wind blows, you know you do not know what you will find.
So when I moved to Scotland to do this PhD, I suspected I would be taken by surprise by homesickness when I least expected, to be startled by beauty unimagined, taken aback by differences in customs, language, culture not anticipated. I hoped I would be pleasantly surprised by interest in my project from people I had no idea I would meet, might delight in a welcome of who I am and what I do, by new opportunities beyond what I could imagine.
Now that said, I am still shaking my head in incredulity, months after I submitted a proposal for a paper to present at a conference on the Glory of God. The glory of God. It simply is not language I tend to use. I associate that language, the 'praise the glory of God', or doing things 'to the glory of God', with more conservative, more evangelical, parts of the church I do not inhabit. It is language I admit feels uncomfortable, distant, empty of meaning for me. That sort of language is part of a skin I shed, leaving an approach to theology and church practice behind from my childhood, as no longer expressing my experience or understanding of the Sacred (see, I use different language these days).
Exploring the Glory of God in Durham this July (early bird registrations have been extended until 14 March, if you're interested in attending). And about the way embodying the letter of Paul to the Romans invited me to feel the emotion of 'giving glory to God'; the way reflecting on this letter's exhortation to love and honour each other alongside the Great Commands of the Hebrew and Christian sacred texts invited me to 'see' the glory of God anew.
I did not expect to be presenting such a paper at such a conference, but I am delighted to be spreading my wings beyond familiar territory. And I do expect to be surprised, challenged, and delighted in ways I can't imagine as I participate in the events of those few days in Durham.
I did not expect to make this discovery, when I embarked on the embodying of the letter to the Romans for my PhD project, this renewed understanding of 'glory'. And it is only one of many unexpected discoveries with this letter I knew would throw up challenges I could not imagine.
I did expect the unexpected, however, leaning into the Spirit, and some participation in 'glory' it has turned out to be.